Back to School

I was busy in school all week last week and will be most of this week too. Not taking classes (thank goodness!), but teaching!

Last week I taught Tankerman PIC again. This week I will be teaching Basic Safety Refresher Mon-Wed and then Leadership & Teamwork after that.

I think I’ve had to study myself more than my students have. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think I could really get into this (teaching) if not for the driving back and forth every day. I have to get up at 0430 every day at the latest, so I can beat the worst of the traffic and make it to school on time. Then I waste about an hour and a half getting home in the afternoon. Longer if I stay a little late.

I do enjoy meeting all the different people and helping them learn what they need to know in order to get or keep their credentials. Personally, I think it sucks (and that it’s 100% unconstitutional) that we have to beg permission from the government in order to go to work, but since I’m in a tiny minority that’s the way it is and will stay. ๐Ÿ™

After the test was over on Friday and everyone got their certificates, I rushed across town for an interview. First one I’ve had in ages. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it turns into something worthwhile. I thought the interview went well. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens. ๐Ÿ™‚

Good News

I finally got some good news today. The mail came with my new, corrected, USCG license! I sent it in to the Coast Guard on September 29. So, it only (major sarcasm) took them a little less than 3 months to process a simple renewal.

My license expired December 16, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even with the end of the year rush due to new STCW ‘gap-closing’ requirements.

Every time I checked, for over 2 months, my license status was listed as PQEB. Waiting for an evaluator. Strange, cause they sent my medical certificate back within a week.ย I had no idea why it was taking so long until I got some help from the Coast Guard’s National Mariner Center booth at the Workboat Show in early December. They got things moving immediately and helped a lot.

I did actually apply for one extra endorsement. Maybe that was the reason for the holdup? I asked for the OIM (offshore installation manager). Reading the rules, I figured I was eligible. I had already taken stability for my Chief Mates license. I already had a few rig moves, under supervision and while in charge.

Since I am already a Master Mariner, that should have covered me for the OIM endorsement. The rules are different if you’re not already holding that license.

But, the USCG has decided that the much more intense stability course I took is not applicable for this endorsement. I need to take a much simpler course which is only specific to certain vessels (mostly MODU’s– mobile offshore drilling units). I learned all this after finally being assigned to an evaluator after the Workboat Show.

The rules also say that at least one of the rig moves must be within the last year.

So, since I was laid off by Ocean Rig in September of 2015, I have not worked since then, I’m shit out of luck until I can go back to work again. I can’t afford to take the necessary course until I find work again anyway, so the whole thing is moot.

The whole point of asking for the endorsement was in hopes it would help me find a job so I could go back to work again.

After a couple of emails back and forth about all this (the GC rep was very helpful and fast to respond), I decided to just drop the request for the endorsement and just renew everything I already had.

I got an email the next day that my MMD (merchant mariner document) was in the mail! The process moved along pretty quick once assigned an evaluator. ย I was feeling pretty good until I got my document a few days later and looked it over.

For some reason they restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. I had taken that course as well for my Chief Mate license. I couldn’t have qualified to sit for the test without it. The CG rep told me that the class I took couldn’t have been approved back then.

Well, why would I have taken it then? The USCG gives us a listing of all the approved courses and all the approved schools where we can take them. Of course I checked the list and would never have gone anywhere to take any class that wasn’t on the list. It would have been a total waste of time and money since the certificate earned would not be valid!

After a few days of arguing and sending documents to the USCG, all the while freaking out about having to re-take another expensive week long course and not being allowed to work after December 31, 2016, the CG allowed that the course I took was actually OK.

Whew!

So, today I finally got my MMD, one that has everything I need to show in order to go back to work. Now I just need a job!

A to Z: License

Today’s post for the A to Z Challenge is: license.

I don’t know how many of you around the world are forced to beg permission from your governments in order to get a job, but here in the USA (supposedly a free country), there are a LOT of us! More and more every year.

People here have to get a license to be a tour guide (to tell stories), to be an interior designer (to pick out color schemes for your living room), to be a hair braider, to work on a boat (like I do), and for hundreds of other occupations.

The Institute for Justice put out a report (License to Work) documenting the licensing requirements for over 100 low and moderate income occupations. We’re talking florists, manicurists, painters, makeup artists, bartenders, landscape workers,…

In fact, about 1 in 3 occupations now require a license! Back in the 50’s only about 5% of jobs required a license (mine was still one of those-deck officers started getting licensed in 1873).

I know things were simpler back then, but did all the jobs people used to be able to do without any governmental approval become SO much more complicated that they just can’t be done safely without the government’s approval?

I wouldn’t get quite so upset if it wasn’t the government involved in all this. After all, this is supposed to be a free country. Personally, I think any job ought to be between the person doing the job and the person doing the hiring. But even with that aside, why does it have to be the government issuing these licenses? Why can’t it be a private organization? Something like the consumers union? Or even the one I have to deal with all the time- the Nautical Institute?

That way, at least we would have some options, even if not many.

I’m pretty sure there were barbers, hairdressers and manicurists back in the 50s, or even before.ย According to Wikipedia, the 1st barbers school in the USA opened in 1893. It was the first in the world. I’m sure it must have taken at least a few years for the barbers to convince the governments to restrict their competition and require a license to become a barber. Do you wonder how we all managed to survive for thousands of years without them?

I know my own profession started agitating to be licensed right around the same time. I’ve been told it was actually the AB’s who started the whole thing. ๐Ÿ™

I can verify in my own profession that the licensing has become much more stringent and much, much harder to comply with since the 70s. When I decided to become a professional mariner in 1977, the rules were so much better for us (as mariners).

I could work my way up the hawsepipe (without spending a dime for school). If I could prove my sea time and pass the tests I was issued a license for “freight and towing’. I could work on ANY vessel, anywhere in the world. Yes, I still had to get my license renewed every 5 years (requiring a physical and a couple of simple things like RADAR recert).

I could get hired on, work on deck for a couple years and when I passed my AB test and got my AB ticket, that document was good for LIFE!

Now, things are completely different. We can’t just work our way up anymore, we have no way to avoid paying thousands of dollars for ‘training’ courses ashore. Personally, I have spent at least $50,000 (to upgrade from 2nd to chief mate). There is no way to just take a couple of simple courses to renew now either. They keep increasing the number of required classes to be re-taken and it’s adding up to some serious money. Even as an AB, I have to spend weeks ashore and thousands of dollars to renew my documents!

Even that’s not enough for them, they have also restricted our ability to work! Instead of the ‘freight and towing’ license, which allowed us to work on ANY vessel, now we have a license for ‘steam and motor’ which does NOT allow us to work on any ‘towing’ vessel (without additional time and money).

I have been a mariner since 1970, professionally since 1977. In all these years, I can say it has been harder and harder to find work, to keep working, to find a job anything like the way it was back then. When I actually loved my job so much!

In fact, I got laid off back in September and haven’t been able to find even a single job since October! There are some (towing) companies hiring (I don’t have that license so out of luck). There are some foreign companies hiring (they usually don’t hire Americans so out of luck there too). ๐Ÿ™

As many others have noted, the insiders restrict entry to their profession through licensing to increase their pay, benefits and influence. In the name of ‘public safety’ they convince the government to go along with the idea. In the end, it doesn’t really work.

It’s time to re-think the issue.